On Believability

Two of my favorites look to be joining forces. HBO announced a partnership between Margaret Atwood and Darren Aronofsky to bring the MaddAddam Trilogy to television. Atwood, best known for The Handmaid’s Tale, writes poetic yet horrifying speculative fiction. Perhaps the most accessible works in her catalogue, the MaddAddam Trilogy imagines a post-apocalyptic world drowned by the hubris of multi-national corporations.

Aronofsky has made a name for himself directing movies that sit on the fence between auteur and the blockbuster. Fresh off his hit, Noah, will MaddAddam be the next canvas for his dark and brooding vision of humanity?

I truly hope this series comes to fruition. But while we wait, there are a few questions that linger. Answers to these questions might help us better understand whether MaddAddam is something worth watching.

1.    How will they tell this story?

The MaddAddam Trilogy compares more favorably to Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy rather than the standard sequential series—like Harry Potter. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood build a world while MaddAddam brings much more narrative weight. In fact, all of the books jump all over the place illustrating the depths of depravity before catastrophe and the struggle to survive after. Will this television series choose to reorder everything sequentially? Will it try to jump around like Lost?

2.    How involved will Darren Aronofksy really be?

Aronofksy is a big name. Even though I wish he gets the time to devote himself to this series, I would bet his name exists to lend weight to the series, much like how Martin Scorsese directed the first episode of Boardwalk Empire and then stepped aside to an executive producer role. Boardwalk Empire succeeds due to the steady hand of showrunner Terence Winter, but who’s going to be the showrunner for MaddAddam? That’s a big question mark and the quality of the show might come down to the ability of the showrunner whoever that might be.

3.    How big of a budget will the show get?

The dystopic world Atwood paints in MaddAddam puts the fantastical world of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones to shame. Even though Game of Thrones has a wallet-busting budget, it still picks and chooses its battles. It’s doubtful MaddAddam would get a similar budget until it proves itself in the ratings. So how will it build this frightening world of genetically modified animals and ruinous cityscapes?

4.    Will we have a main character or an ensemble?

Again in reference to the non-sequential nature of MaddAddam, there are multiple characters introduced and followed throughout the books. While it’s easy to move to an ensemble in as a vast world as Game of Thrones, the MaddAddam world is smaller—it’s post-apocalyptic so everyone’s dead (this can’t really be a spoiler right?). And yet, Atwood weaves multiple narratives and characters into the fabric of the story. Does HBO want to build out the list of characters? Or is it better to focus on a central character? Either could work. They both will have challenges.

5.    What are the chances this actually gets made?

So, HBO has a history of purchasing rights to promising literary novels before placing them in development purgatory. Gaiman’s American Gods and Franzen’s The Corrections created a bustle of activity when HBO announced development. Yet we haven’t heard from them in years. Could MaddAddam receive the same fate? It’s entirely possible.

But I really hope this series comes to our television set. It might be the most excited I’ve ever been about an announced series. MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

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